A Brief History of the Iso Grifo

The Iso Grifo was developed by a dream team of Italians in the 1960s, the body design was penned by Giorgetto Giugiaro, the engineering was done by Giotto Bizzarrini, and the whole thing was overseen by Iso chief executive Renzo Rivolta.

Bizzarrini is famous for his development work on the Ferrari 250 GTO – now the most expensive car in history. Giugiaro is known as one of the most prolific automotive designers of the 20th century, and he would design a staggering number of iconic cars including the DeLorean DMC-12, the original VW Golf, and a personal favorite – the Ferrari 250 GT SWB.

Renzo Rivolta brought Bizzarrini onboard to develop a new model for Iso, using his experience building high performance Ferraris. Giugiaro was a natural choice for the designer, he’d already penned the Iso Rivolta IR 300, and using the same designer is often a good way of keeping some familial similarity between models.

Iso was a low-volume manufacturer, so rather than develop their own engines they opted to use American V8s. This significantly reduced costs for the company and it offered them a range of engines to choose from with excellent reliability and broad spare parts availability.

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Introduced in 1965, the Iso Grifo GL was fitted with Chevrolet Corvette small-block 327 cubic inch (5.4 liter) paired with a Borg-Warner 4-speed manual transmission.

In 1970 the Series II models made an appearance, now with slightly sleeker styling including partially covered headlights and larger big-block Chevrolet 454 cubic inch (7.5 liter) V8 engines.

The final iteration of the Iso Grifo would be the IR8 of 1972, with similar styling to the original Series II cars but with the addition of the small-block Ford Boss 351 cubic inch (5.8 liter) V8 and the option of either a manual transmission or a 3-speed automatic. The most powerful of all the Iso Grifos was the Can Am sold from 1970 till 1972, with a 390 bhp 7.0 liter Ford V8 fitted under the raised “penthouse” bonnet.

The Iso Grifo would be produced for a final two years before Iso went bankrupt in 1974, there were a number of reasons for this, one of which was the 1973 Oil Crisis which led to a significant downturn in interest for large-engined sports cars.

Over the course of production 413 Iso Grifos were built and they’re now very popular with enthusiasts and collectors. There have been a small number of more modern concept cars from current intellectual property owners of Iso, the most recent being the Iso Grifo 96 of 1996.

The Iso Grifo Series II Shown Here

The 1973 Iso Grifo Series II you see here is one of the popular Ford-engined models with a 351 Cleveland (5.8 liter) V8 under the hood. This obviously makes maintenance and spare parts availability multiple orders of magnitude easier and cheaper than similar cars from the period from other Italian marques like Ferrari or Lamborghini.

This car was formerly owned in California and would later be displayed at the “The Quail, a Motor Sport Gathering” in 2012. In 2013 it was sold to a new owner in Asia, and it’s now being offered for sale by Bonhams at The Goodwood Festival of Speed Sale on the 30th of June. It’s thought to be worth between £200,000 and £250,000, and you can click here if you’d like to read more about it or register to bid.

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Images courtesy of Bonhams